Thursday, August 16, 2012

Black Dynamite (animated series)

Created by Michael Jai White, Byron Minns, and Scott Sanders

            Black Dynamite (the movie) was one of the best parodies I’ve seen in a long time.  Taking the low-budget style and plotline of a blaxploitation movie, it was ridiculous, fun, and hilarious.  So I was really excited to hear about an animated series coming to Adult Swim.  Sadly, Black Dynamite (the series) just doesn’t live up to what I was hoping for.
            The general plot of the series is the continuing adventures of Black Dynamite’s (Michael Jai White) team, consisting of Bullhorn (Byron Minns), Cream Corn (Tommy Davidson), and Honeybee (Kym Whitley).Rather than look at just one of the first four episodes, I’ve decided to bring them all up here.  Strangely, the first two feature members of Black Dynamite’s team getting involved with Michael Jackson and the porn industry, with Dynamite himself only being a side character.  The third episode involves Dynamite being behind on his taxes, so to get the money he needs, he offers to take Richard Pryor to his famous Sunset Strip gig.  And the fourth is a Christmas episode, where Dynamite and OJ Simpson go to the moon (honestly, even if I filled in the details on that, it makes about that much sense).
            The first thing I want to point out just from this information is how purely random the episode line-up seems to be.  The first two episodes don’t even star Black Dynamite and give very little introduction to who these characters even are.  If you didn’t watch the movie, you’re going to be lost.  The other big thing is how celebrity-focused the show is.  And sadly, this just makes the show feel dated, despite premiering this summer.  Jokes about Michael Jackson and OJ Simpson feel old.  It’s meant to take place in the 70s/80s (I’m honestly unsure on the exact time period, and I doubt the show cares very much), but that doesn’t suddenly open the door to drag out jokes that people no longer laugh at.
            I also can’t help but feel that animation was a poor choice for this.  Part of what made the movie so good was the pure blaxploitation quality of it.  Not only did the film look old, but goofs were either made or left in.  It felt like a bad, low-budget movie.  So changing from live-action to animation takes out all of these qualities.  It looks good and stylish, and adding in goofs would just look odd.  I know Adult Swim has live-action shows, so it’s weird that they didn’t do that for Black Dynamite.
            The overall episode quality is mixed.  The best is probably the second, where Bullhorn’s constant rhyming ends up making him a porn star.  It pushes some limits, the plot is fairly ridiculous without going as over-the-top as some of the other episodes do (two of them feature aliens), and it has plenty of good jokes.  It does steal the movie’s best joke, which made me worry the series was going to rely on this. But none of the other episodes seem to really be interested in doing it, so I assume it’s just a one-time thing.  The worst was the third.  Part of the problem is that it uses so much language…that gets censored out.  At some point, I was getting a headache from the constant bleeping.  I assume that this’ll be better on DVD, where it will hopefully be uncensored.  Even with that changed, though, I still feel like they wasted a plot of the IRS trying to kill Black Dynamite to focus on Richard Pryor.  Maybe it’s one of those things that’s hilarious if you’re a big fan of him.  I don’t know.
            Black Dynamite is just this sad case of wasted potential.  Watch the movie, skip the series.

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